Wednesday, March 28, 2018

ROUTE UPDATES: American announces Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Los Angeles (LAX) eff 19Dec18 + Cordoba (COR) - Miami (MIA) eff 02Apr19

Rumors had been circulating for about two weeks in the Argentine travel and aviation blog "Sir Chandler" that two big route announcements would be made soon and they were released today with both new routes to be operated by American Airlines.

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Los Angeles (LAX) - eff 19Dec18 - 3x/weekly

To be operated with 787-9's.  It is expected that connections to Asia via American's Los Angeles (LAX) hub for business travelers is one of the main rationales behind the new service.  

This route was previously flown by Aerolineas Argentinas with A310's in the 1990's via Lima (LIM) or Mexico City (MEX).  

Some readers of other blogs have commented that the new service might take away passengers from American's existing daily service from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) and recall AA's flights between EZE and Chicago O'Hare (ORD) that operated for a couple of years in the late 2000's before being suspended.       
Cordoba (COR) - Miami (MIA) - eff 02Apr19 - 4x/weekly

To be operated with 767-300's.  This route has been flown off-and-on several times by Aerolineas Argentinas over the last few decades using 707's, 727-200's and 737-200's on routings that included stops in Argentina and airports in other countries along the Pacific coast on the way up to Miami, also nonstop with 747's, and most recently using A340-300's between 04Jul15 and 29May16.   

Speculation by the editor of this blog about the viability of Cordoba (COR) - Miami (MIA) service by American:

History of service on the COR-MIA route by Aerolineas Argentinas:

Summary of the most recent Aerolineas flights between the two cities:

COPA and LATAM currently offer service from Cordoba (COR) to approx. 25-30 destinations in North America, Central America and the Caribbean through their respective hubs but American will connect Cordoba (COR) with approx. 100 destinations in the same regions though Miami (MIA) with the vast majority of them being in the US.

American Airlines currently operates from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Miami (MIA) 2x/daily, to New York Kennedy (JFK) 1x/daily and Dallas-Ft. Worth 1x/daily for a total of 4x/daily flights and 28x/weekly.  Additionally, in the southern hemisphere summer high season from October or December (has varied by year) to March, the carrier operates a third daily flight between EZE and MIA. 

The new EZE-LAX and COR-MIA services will add another 7x/weekly flights for a total of 35x/weekly year-round flights by American between Argentina and the US.     


Saturday, March 24, 2018

VERY RARE PHOTO: Aeroflot Yak-40 CCCP-87791 at Montevideo (MVD) in March 1972

Aeroflot Yak-40, CCCP-87791 (c/n 9920203), at Montevideo (MVD) in March 1972, believed to be on the 24th of the month (46 years ago today), during a sales tour visiting several Latin American countries.  Note the derelict C-46 in the background on the left and the 707, believed to be of Pan American, on the right.  (Phil Perry Photo)

Just over 1,000 Yak-40's were built by Russian aircraft manufacturer Yakovlev between 1967 and 1981 with the type being operated mostly by Russian/Soviet airlines and military plus their Soviet bloc allies but with many also seeing service with carriers in Africa, Asia, Latin America (such as Bolivia and Peru) and even a handful flying in western Europe (Greece, Italy and West Germany). 

The Yak-40 had three jet engines and could carry 24-32 passengers over a range of 780nm/1,450km with a full passenger load and 970nm/1,800km with max fuel and had a maximum cruise speed of 297kt/550km.  There were 45 examples reportedly still in service in 2013 with probably a handful still flying today.  It could be considered the very first small regional jet.

As far as the editor knows, there were no Yak-40's sold in Latin America as a direct result of the 1972 sales tour of the region. 

UPDATED 07Apr18Carlos Abella has written with more information on the Yak-40's 1972 South American sales tour.  According to the British aviation magazine Flight International, in addition to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, the Yak-40 visited Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru with the Soviets claiming that they garnered an order for five examples from Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, although there is no evidence that these were ever delivered. 

Flight International - 07Oct71 - page 2063 

UPDATED 25Mar18 Good friend Carlos Abella, editor of the excellent Argentine aviation blog Rollout Spotting with exhaustive and detailed coverage of many subjects of interest related to Argentine and Latin American aviation history and current developments, posted this article several years ago with many details about the Aeroflot Yak-40's 1972 South American sales tour:

Rollout Spotting: Aeroflot Yak-40 at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 06Mar72

In summary, the Yak-40 visited both Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile with the idea of selling the aircraft to airlines of these two countries. 

The then Chilean socialist government of President Salvador Allende was considering adding Russian-built Ilyushin IL-62 long-range jets to the fleet of the government-owned national airline LAN Chile (today's LATAM) given the country's close relationship with the Soviet Union. The Yak-40 was flown to Santiago to pitch this aircraft type too.

Argentina's political situation at the time was not very conducive to increasing commercial ties with the USSR with most business leaders being right-leaning but the English aviation publication Flight International reported that the small regional airline, Aerochaco, based in the northern city of Reconquista, Chaco province ordered two Yak-40's with an option for one more.  However, the Argentine government would not allow the aircraft to operate on the Argentine register due to its not being certificated by the US Federal Aviation Administration.  Also, the Yak's operating economics were apparently poor being small for a jet-powered aircraft with only 24-32 seats.  

A turboprop Antonov 32 was apparently later also demonstrated to the airline but neither type entered service with Aerochaco.  

Aerochaco later went on to operate two Fairchild Hiller FH-227's (stretched model of the Dutch F-27).     


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Andes Lineas Aereas will fly families of Argentine soldiers fallen in the South Atlantic War to the islands on 26Mar18

Two chartered Andes Lineas Aereas MD-83's will fly from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to the Mt. Pleasant Royal Air Force base on the Malvinas/Falklands islands on 26Mar18 carrying 180 family members of 88 Argentine soldiers buried in the Argentine War Memorial Cemetery at Darwin. 

The 88 soldiers were identified last year by a team from the Argentine Forensic Society assisted by specialists from Australia, Chile, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the International Red Cross through the use of DNA samples.  The British authorities will reportedly hand over personal belongings of the previously unidentified soldiers to the families.  

The charter of these aircraft and all of the costs on the islands associated with this journey are being paid for by Eduardo Eurnekian, president of Corporacion America, owner of Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, which runs most of the airports in Argentina that have airline service (and some that do not).  A Gulfstream business jet owned by Mr. Eurnekian and a chartered American Jet Fairchild Metro 23 freighter (also paid for by Mr. Eurnekian) will also fly to the islands, the latter carrying new tombstones with the fallen soldiers' names on them to replace the existing ones bearing the legend "Argentine Soldier only known to God".    


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

ROUTE UPDATES: Aerolineas Argentinas Route Changes - Pursuit of Profitability & Direct Domestic Connections - Part 2

Cordoba (COR) - Bahia Blanca (BHI) - eff 03Apr18 - 5x/weekly

Flights to be operated by Austral E190's.  Bahia Blanca (BHI) is scheduled to be the 16th destination operated year-round by the Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral group from its Cordaba (COR) hub, and the 17th when counting Mar del Plata (MDQ), which is served on a seasonal summer basis. 

Cordoba (COR) - Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG) - eff XXApr18 - Route Cancelled

Suspended due to end of summer season. 

Cordoba (COR) - Porto Seguro (BPS) - eff XXApr18 - Route Cancelled

Suspended due to the end of the summer season despite having continued 1x/weekly after the summer in 2017.

Cordoba (COR) - Salvador (SSA) - eff XXApr18 - Route Cancelled

Suspended due to the end of the summer season despite having continued 1x/weekly after the summer in 2017.

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Punta Cana (PUJ) - eff 01May18 - increase from 4x/weekly to 1x/daily

This route is currently operated 4x/weekly with A330's but will pass to 1x/daily service using Aerolineas' new 737 MAX 8's.  The long range of the MAX series allows for routes like EZE-PUJ to be served by smaller aircraft more frequently and will make routes that are too "thin" on passenger traffic to support  traditional long-range aircraft, economically viable (see Cordoba (COR) to Punta Cana (PUJ) below).

Long-range aircraft are generally large so that they can carry a lot of fuel but their size makes them burn a lot of fuel too, which means that they have to carry a large payload of passengers, cargo, or combination of both to be profitable.  But the new generation of 737 MAX aircraft burn a lot less fuel than their predecessors, the 737 NG series, so they can fly farther on the same amount of gas while only needing to fill 150-180 seats.

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Madrid (MAD) - eff XXJun18 - increase from 7x to 10x/weekly

This route is currently served mainly with A340-300's but the new flights will be operated by A330-200's. 

Cordoba (COR) - Punta Cana (PUJ) - eff XXJul18 - 1x/weekly

This route, which is relatively "thin" on passenger traffic, is now economically viable using the long-range smaller 737 MAX 8 instead of a larger aircraft like the A330, which was previously necessary for a route of this length.   

Cordoba (COR) - San Martin de los Andes (CPC) - eff July to September
This is a seasonal flight for the winter ski season.  


Sunday, March 18, 2018

ROUTE UPDATES: Aerolineas Argentinas Route Changes - Pursuit of Profitability & Direct Domestic Connections - Part 1

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Caracas (CCS) - eff 28Jul17 - Route Cancelled

Aerolineas Airbus A330-200, LV-FNK (c/n 358), operated the carrier's last service to Caracas (CCS) on 28Jul17, flying the return sector on 29Jul17.  Like many other airlines, Aerolineas has suspended service indefinitely to the Venezuelan capital due to political unrest in the country and the retention by the self-proclaimed Bolivaran government of hard-currency ticket sales that collectively have cost foreign carriers several billions (thousand millions) of lost USD revenue in the last few years.     

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Bogota (BOG) - eff 09Aug17 - increase from 4x to 5x/weekly but back to 4x !

The suspension of the 1x/weekly service to Caracas freed up an A330 to be deployed on the EZE-BOG route allowing for one additional weekly flight on the sector.  However, it was announced in February that this route would go back to 4x/weekly.   

Cordoba (COR) - Posadas (PSS) - eff 26Dec17 - 3x/weekly

Flights operated by Austral E190's.  Posadas (PSS) is the 15th destination operated year-round by the Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral group from its Cordaba (COR) hub, and the 16th when counting Mar del Plata (MDQ), which is served on a seasonal summer basis. 

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Barcelona (BCN) - eff 01Feb18 - Route Cancelled

The cancellation of this service was controversial as it was, according to Aerolineas Argentinas' president Mario Dell' Acqua, due to the weak financial performance of the route (presumably in the face of competition from new LCC Level on the route) and also the "lack of cooperation" from the carrier's labor unions that "aggravated" the situation.

Bahia Blanca (BHI) - Neuquen (NQN) - eff 05Mar18 - 4x/weekly

Flights to be operated by Austral E190's.  This route was already operated in September and December 2017.  The airline has established a pattern where it will be operated most months of the year but will be replaced by Bahia Blanca (BHI) to Bariloche (BRC) during the summer and winter months (Bariloche is a lake and mountain resort).  

With this flight, Bahia Blanca (BHI) now has nonstop service to seven Argentine airports; Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) and Ezeiza (EZE), Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD), Mar del Plata (MDQ), Neuquen (NQN), Trelew (REL) and Ushuaia (USH) with Cordoba (COR) to be added in April.   

Neuquen (NQN) now has nonstop flights to Bahia Blanca (BHI), Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), Comodoro Rivadavia (CRD), Cordoba (COR) and Mendoza (MDZ). 

Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral continues to implement the Argentine national government's air transportation policy of connecting "internal" cities directly with each other without having to connect through Buenos Aires.    

Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) - Parana (PRA) - eff 06Mar18 - increase from 6x to 11x/weekly

All 11 flights operated by Austral E190's. 

* Jujuy (JUJ) - Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) - eff 24Mar18 - 30Jun18 - 1x/weekly

This flight was operated for a tour operator during the 2018 summer season and is now being flown again, at least until 30Jun18, with seats being sold directly to the general public.  The main purpose of the route is to promote inbound tourism to the high mountain desert region of northwest Argentina.  Flights operated by Aerolineas Argentinas 737-800's. 

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Porto Alegre (POA) - eff 03Apr18 - increase from 7x to 14x/weekly

Additional flights to be operated by Austral E190's complementing the existing 737-800 flights that depart EZE but return to Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP).


Friday, March 16, 2018

FLEET UPDATE: LATAM Argentina receives 16th A320, 19th aircraft overall

LATAM Argentina's 16th A320, LV-HQI (c/n 3319), landed at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) on 11Mar18, joining the airline's fleet after flying from Mexico City (MEX) (via Lima (LIM)) where it had been painted in LATAM colors. 

LV-HQI was originally delivered to LAN Airlines as CC-CQN in 2007 and went on to fly in Colombia before rejoining LAN (later LATAM Chile) in 2011.  LATAM Argentina has had a fairly stable fleet of 15 A320's in recent years so it is possible that the arrival of LV-HQI will not result in an addition to the carrier's fleet but will instead replace one of the airline's other A320's, either temporarily while the aircraft is undergoing maintenance or permanently.  The possibility of the latter is reinforced by LATAM Argentina's recently announced plans to drop all service to Bahia Blanca (BHI) and San Juan (UAQ) on 01Jun18.

In addition to its A320 fleet, LATAM Argentina has three 767-300's that it operates on the Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Miami (MIA) route 10x/weekly.    


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ROUTE UPDATES: Aerolineas Argentinas Seasonal Summer Service

* Seasonal Summer Service 

Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral were reported by various news outlets to be planning the following routes during the southern hemisphere summer months and presumably operated them though planned service occasionally does not materialize as announced:

Cordoba (COR) - Mar del Plata (MDQ) - eff 10Dec17 - seasonal summer service

Flights were scheduled to be operated by Austral E190's 3x/weekly which transitioned to 7x/weekly when the peak summer arrived, presumably in January.

Cordoba (COR) - Punta del Este (PDP) - eff 25Dec17 - seasonal summer service

Flights were scheduled to be operated by Austral E190's and Aerolineas Argentinas 737 series aircraft 4x/weekly. 

Cordoba (COR) - Florianopolis (PDP) - eff 01Jan18 - seasonal summer service

Flights were planned to be operated by Austral E190's 3x/weekly.

* General Information on Seasonal Summer Service without detailed start dates, aircraft types etc.:    

Jujuy (JUJ) - Sao Paulo - January & February - 1x/weekly

Service was presumably to Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) with type of aircraft not announced.  These were charter flights contracted by the package tour operator Badino.  This service was significant in that it was to connect northwest Argentina directly with Brazil for inbound and outbound tourism without connecting through Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) or Cordoba (COR).         

* Bahia Blanca (BHI) - Bariloche (BRC) - 4x/weekly

Was probably operated with Austral E190's as they are the aircraft type most commonly used in domestic routes connecting "interior" points directly to each other. 

* Mar del Plata (MDQ) summer service

Buenos Aires (presumably Aeroparque (AEP)) increase to 30 weekly flights.

Flights from Cordoba (COR), Mendoza (MDZ), Rosario (ROS), and Tucuman (TUC) were due to start in December presumably operated mostly by Austral E190's as in the past.

* Brazil summer service

Flights to Florianopolis (FLN) from Buenos Aires (Aeroparque and/or Ezeiza?), Cordoba (COR), Mendoza (MDZ), and Rosario (ROS).  

Flights to Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG) from Cordoba (COR) and Rosario (ROS).  

* Uruguay summer service

Flights to Punta del Este (PDP) from Cordoba (COR) and Rosario (ROS).

Flights to Punta del Este (PDP) from Buenos Aires (mostly or exclusively from Aeroparque) increasing from the typical 1x/daily offseason service to 32x/weekly in the peak January / February summer season.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Aerolineas Argentinas to make decision on replacement of A330 long-range fleet by end of 2018

Aerolineas Argentinas A330-200, LV-FVH (c/n 1605), Aerolineas' first factory-delivered and owned aircraft taxiing at a European airport.  (Phil Perry Collection)

Aerolineas Argentinas will reportedly make a decision on the replacement of its intercontinental jet fleet by the end of 2018.

Aerolineas Argentinas - Intercontinental Flights - First Decades

Aerolineas Argentinas has flown several types of long-range jet aircraft from  Argentina to Europe and North America since it first introduced the de Havilland Comet 4 into service in 1959.  Since then the Boeing 707, 747-200, 747SP, 747-400 and Airbus A310 have all flown long-range services for Aerolineas with even some smaller regional types, such as the 727-200 being pressed into service occasionally on multi-stop runs from Argentina to Miami, for example.

After the 747-400 was retired from active Aerolineas service on 01Feb12, the airline remained with an exclusive Airbus fleet for its intercontinental scheduled flights.  Aerolineas has operated a total of 13 different A340 series aircraft, including three A340-200's and ten A340-300's, two of which remain in service plus 10 A330-200's, all of which are currently flying for the carrier.

Airbus A340-300

The two remaining A340-300's, LV-FPU (c/n 170) and LV-FPV (c/n 193), the latter painted in Skyteam colors, will soldier on until 2019 or even 2020, presumably flying mostly the Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Madrid (MAD) route as they do now.

Airbus A330-200

Aerolineas Argentinas started taking delivery of the backbone of its current intercontinental fleet, the A330-200, in 2013 with three examples joining the fleet that year, one in 2014, two in 2015, three in 2016 and the final A330-200 being acquired in early 2017 for a total of 10 of the type.     

Two of these aircraft, LV-FNI (c/n 290) and LV-FNJ (c/n 300), were delivered to SABENA with both going on to also fly for VG Airlines and Malaysia Airlines before joining Aerolineas. 

Another two A330-200's, LV-FNK (c/n 358) and LV-FNL (c/n 364), were delivered to Air Afrique and proceeded to serve an identical sequence of operators; Calliope, Eurofly, Atlas Jet, Saudi Arabian, and Atlas Jet again before going on to Aerolineas.

Yet another pair of A330-200's had identical service histories before joining Aerolineas, LV-GKO (c/n 587) and LV-GKP (c/n 634), which were delivered to EVA Airways prior to going to Argentina.

Finally, Aerolineas Argentinas bought four factory-new A330-200's directly from Airbus in February 2013, with the first example, LV-FVH (c/n 1605), being delivered on 28Feb15 followed by LV-FVI (c/n 1623) on 30Apr15, LV-GHQ (c/n 1737) on 05Aug16 and LV-GIF (c/n 1748) on 02Nov16.

Aerolineas deploys its A330-200 fleet on its intercontinental network radiating out from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Miami (MIA), New York Kennedy (JFK), Cancun (CUN), Punta Cana (PUJ), Rome-Fiumicino (FCO), and Madrid (MAD) 2x/weekly with the other 5 days being operated by A340-300's.  The carrier  flew to Barcelona (BCN) until recently too.   

Recent European Route Changes

Aerolineas dropped Barcelona (BCN) because it was unprofitable, especially in the face of competition from Level, an LCC belonging to the IAG Group, but it plans to restart service to the Catalan city when it has more efficient lower-cost aircraft in its fleet that will make the airline more competitive on the route.  

The Rome-Fiumicino (FCO) route was also a money-loser but it apparently became a much more attractive product when Aerolineas added frequencies to make it a daily service because the route is now profitable. 
A330-200 Replacement

Aerolineas will reportedly start retiring its A330-200's after it has completed replacing Austral's E190 fleet, probably in 2021 or soon thereafter.  

The leading candidate aircraft include the 777, 787, and A350 with no further indication thus far of which models of each type might be under consideration. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

HISTORICAL PHOTO: Aerolineas Argentinas Comet 4, LV-AHN, at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE)

Aerolineas Argentinas de Havilland Comet 4, LV-AHN (c/n 06408), at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE), probably in the 1960's.  (Phil Perry Collection)

This aircraft was the first of seven Comet 4's that Aerolineas Argentinas flew with this example joining the fleet on 02Mar59, only a few months after the type entered service with BOAC on 04Oct58 between London Heathrow (LHR) and New York Idlewild (IDL), today's JFK.  

LV-AHN was hijacked on 24Mar70 when flying between Cordoba (COR) and Tucuman (TUC).  It was first diverted to Santiago (SCL) where it was refuelled and some passengers released before proceeding to Lima (LIM) and finally Havana (HAV).  Curiously, the aircraft was the first to join the Aerolineas fleet and last to leave it when it was retired in December 1971 with 30,000 hours on the airframe.   

The aircraft went on to Dan Air London as a source of spares before being broken up at Lasham, England in March 1973.


Monday, March 5, 2018

ROUTE UPDATE: Flybondi added flights from El Palomar (EPA) to Bariloche (BRC), Neuquen (NQN) & Tucuman (TUC) with more new destinations soon

Flybondi started the following new routes this past week, almost exactly as previously announced with only the Bariloche (BRC) flight starting one day later than planned:

* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) - Neuquen (NQN) - eff 26Feb
* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) - Bariloche (BRC) - eff 27Feb
* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) - Tucuman (TUC) - eff 28Feb

In addition, the airline plans to start three new routes in March, all out of Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA), perhaps signalling that this will be its most important airport in the long run despite its strong presence in Cordoba (COR).

* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) - Corrientes (CNQ) - eff 05Mar (delayed to 28Mar)
* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) - Mendoza (MDZ) - eff 05Mar
* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) - Jujuy (JUJ) - eff 13Mar (delayed to 28Mar)

The recent arrival of Flybondi's third 737-800 should make the operation of the new routes more viable. 

Editor's Comments:

When airlines start new routes, most of them like to get established in those markets and then build up frequencies before adding new routes to their systems.  Flybondi appears to be taking the opposite approach, adding as many new destinations as possible as quickly as possible, even if they only operate certain routes once daily or a few times per week.  

This might be due to many routes not being able to support many frequencies but maybe Flybondi is looking to get established in as many cities in Argentina as possible before Norwegian Air Argentina, the local affiliate of Norwegian, one of the world's most important Low Cost Carriers starts up in the coming months. 


Sunday, March 4, 2018

FLEET UPDATE: Flybondi received its 3rd 737-800, LV-HKR, on 03Mar18 at Cordoba (COR)

Flybondi's third 737-800, LV-HKR (c/n 32614/1201), arrived at Cordoba (COR) on 03Mar18 after a long delivery flight from Singapore via the Maldives, Angola and Brazil with the stop in the Maldives being for several days due to mechanical issues that had to be resolved.

The aircraft is expected to enter service with Flybondi within the next few days and none too soon as the airline has experienced chronically delayed flights since its startup a month ago, with flights arriving up to eight hours late not being uncommon.  Additionally, Flybondi recently started service from one of its two main bases, Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) (the other being Cordoba (COR)), to Bariloche (BRC), Neuquen (NQN) and Tucuman (TUC) with Corrientes (CNQ) and Jujuy (JUJ) to join its network in the coming days so it needs all the "lift" that it can muster.


Friday, March 2, 2018

Flybondi's first month of service plagued with operational problems

Flybondi, Argentina's first Low-Cost Carrier (LCC), started regularly scheduled service on 26Jan18 between Cordoba (COR) and Iguazu (IGR) adding several more routes since then, including:

* Cordoba (COR) to Bariloche (BRC), Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) and Mendoza (MDZ) 

* Mendoza (MDZ) to Bariloche (BRC) and Iguazu (IGR)

* Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) to Bariloche (BRC), Neuquen (NQN) and Tucuman (TUC).

For most of the first month, the airline attempted to operate their route system with only one aircraft, 737-800 LV-HKS (c/n 33821/1698), which unsurprisingly resulted in ongoing reliability issues:

* Demonstration Flight Interrupted 

On 23Jan18, three days before the start of service, a demonstration flight from Cordoba (COR) for the press and others had to turn around after only 12 minutes in the air apparently due to a warning indication related to one of its engines.  With many established interests being opposed to the threat posed by LCC service in Argentina, this presumably small incident received a lot of negative press coverage in the Argentine media.

* Baggage shipped to Destination by Truck  

A Bariloche (BRC) to Cordoba (COR) flight on 03Feb18 had to operate under weight restrictions resulting in all the passenger luggage being surfaced by truck to Cordoba (COR).  Normally, a 737-800 can easily take on a full load of passengers and baggage plus enough fuel to fly the distance from Bariloche (BRC) to Cordoba (COR) with enough reserves for circling over the destination airport for 45 minutes and diversion to an alternate airport.  

However, Bariloche (BRC) is located somewhat high above sea level at 2,936 feet (895 meters) plus it was a hot day, which, according to Flybondi, lowered the aircraft's maximum allowable takeoff weight for the length of Bariloche's runway (the higher the elevation and the higher the temperature, the thinner the air, so aircraft have to be lighter to take off within a given space).    

Additionally, it seems that the aircraft's systems were not qualified for operations over 29,000 ft., which meant flying at a lower altitude where the air is more dense creating more drag and burning more fuel.  This meant that the airline had to load considerably more fuel than usual to reach Cordoba (COR), which in turn did not allow for carrying all the weight of a full load of passengers and their baggage.  Given this situation the airline had to choose what to leave behind in Bariloche (BRC) and elected to leave the passenger baggage, which it trucked to Cordoba. 

This was the explanation given by the airline along with information from other sources.   

* Cordoba (COR) to Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) Inaugural Flight Marred

The airline's inaugural flight from Cordoba (COR) to Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) on 09Feb18 was diverted to Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) due to bad weather creating conditions below operating minimums at EPA, which does not have the same sophistication of landing aids and other equipment as EZE.  The aircraft then ferried empty to EPA where it finally departed on the inaugural flight to Cordoba (COR).  The airline responded properly to the situation but still, what would have been a shining moment for the carrier turned into one that was more disappointment than celebration.        

* Bad Wheel on Sole 737-800 required Chartering in Aircraft from Andes Lineas Aereas  

A problem with one of the wheels on the only plane in Flybondi's fleet at the time rendered the plane inoperable requiring the airline to charter in aircraft from Andes to cover six flights on 15Feb18 and two more the following day, inconveniencing in excess of 625 passengers.   

* Worst Problem - Most Flights Late with Many Cancelled

Despite the highly-publicized events mentioned above, Flybondi's biggest problem in its first month of service has been a large number of late flights, with delays of 2-3 hours being common and some extending up to 8 hours with a fair number of flights being cancelled altogether. 

* Better Days Likely Ahead 

Flybondi took delivery of its second 737-800, LV-HFR (c/n 28071/133), on 14Feb18 with its third aircraft due imminently, which should help the airline cover its routes more reliably.  

Up until 27Feb18, Flybondi had completed 139 flights of which 109 originated/terminated in Cordoba (COR).  The airline plans to operate 33 routes and 10 aircraft by the end of this year.  Indeed, just this past week Flybondi added Buenos Aires El Palomar (EPA) to Bariloche (BRC), Neuquen (NQN), and Tucuman (TUC).     

Flybondi claims to be selling 20,000 tickets per week, which would fill 16-18 737-800 per day, but they presently do not fly close to that many flights !  They will need the half-dozen or so additional aircraft due to join its fleet this year sooner rather than later !       


Thursday, March 1, 2018

FLEET UPDATE: Aerolineas Argentinas received its 4th 737 MAX 8 on 25Feb18

Aerolineas Argentinas' fourth 737 MAX 8, LV-HKV (c/n 44294/6807), arrived at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) on 25Feb18 on its delivery flight from Boeing Field (BFI) via Punta Cana (PUJ).

Aerolineas is due to receive only one more 737 MAX 8 in 2018 for a total of five of the model with apparently no more on order by the carrier.   


Reader Matias Muse pointed out that Aerolineas Argentinas actually has six more MAX series aircraft on order, for a total of 11, with the option of choosing which model for the remaining six to be delivered, MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 200, MAX 9 or MAX 10, as noted by the leading British aviation publication, Flight International: